#SpooktasticReads Review: The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press | Simon & Schuster Audio (September 29, 2020)
Length: 320 pages | 8 hrs and 54 mins
Author Information: Website
If your tastes in horror tend to run towards the more wacky-scary, then The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson just might be the book for you. This horror sci-fi thriller mashup reads a bit like The X-Files and The Walking Dead meets Stranger Things with the parasitic mind control factor of The Faculty thrown in, but even all of that fails to tell the whole lurid story.
Nestled in the picturesque hills of western Oregon is Turner Falls, where the kids are definitely not all right. Tourists may know this quiet resort town for its pristine ski slopes and charming vacation getaway vibes, but few are aware it is also the headquarters of IMTECH, a cutting-edge biotech company. The scientists there have just made an incredible breakthrough on a new technology which they are secretly in the middle of testing, after putting the implant into one of the town’s teenagers.
Needless to say, things don’t end well. The teenager goes berserk at school, injuring his fellow classmates before killing a teacher. A mysterious cleanup crew then comes and puts down the out-of-control attacker. Lucy Henderson is our protagonist, who witnesses the whole incident. Soon, she and her best friend Bucket along with a few others are the only ones left remaining who are trying to figure out what’s going on, as the madness takes hold and begins to spread to all the other kids in town.
Meanwhile, scattered throughout the narrative are also mini-interludes presented in the form of radio broadcast updates from an anonymous paranoid conspiracy-peddling host calling himself the Nightwatchman. They’ve been keeping up with the IMTECH shenanigans for years, trying to warn Turner Falls about the shit that’s about to go down. Of course, in this case, some conspiracy theories turn out to be real.
Yes, things do get a bit over-the-top and also bloody and gross, so you’re probably going to want to stay far away from the book if you are sensitive to graphic violence or scenes of extreme gore—this one is definitely not for the squeamish. Other caveats to consider include the kind of crude and tasteless dialogue some would describe as “locker room” talk. Because, you know, teenagers.
Other than that though, I have to say The Loop was pretty awesome, as long as you’re willing to go with the flow and not take it too seriously. The coming-of-age themes give the story a strong “teen horror movie,” vibe tinged with a heavy dose of dark humor. Personally, I found it refreshingly bold in its irreverence as well as highly entertaining, even as I was shaking my head wondering how much weirder or crazier things were going to get. It’s certainly not going to be for everyone.
That said, even as I put this book squarely in the category of brain candy, kudos to the author for not compromising on important elements like characterization and relationship development. Lucy is a sympathetic protagonist with a complex backstory, and likewise, her connections with the other characters in the novel are explored in ways that ended up deeply affecting me. Without revealing any spoilers, I’ll just say that a lot of stories in this genre are typically stacked with throwaway characters that you know are doomed to perish, so you’re desensitize when the moment eventually comes. This book was different, however, in that it actually hurt.
So, if Jeremy Robert Johnson’s brand of horror and thrills is what you’re looking for, I guarantee The Loop will keep you well entertained. Brace yourself for the wild ride.
Audiobook Comments: I was fortunate to also get a chance to listen to The Loop audiobook. Fantastic narration Inés del Castillo, who was very believable and impressive portraying kickass Lucy and all the other characters. The audio production was also quite high, and some of the sound effects and other little extras gave this format something special that you won’t get from most other audiobooks or from reading the print book.